Students and staff at Detroit Enterprise Academy (DEA) stood and walked in solidarity while sharing a message that Black Lives Matter. The march took place on June 19, which marked Juneteenth, a nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. Emily Gagnon, principal at DEA, invited members of the community to participate and peacefully march in protest with them.
This program included an eight-lap march around Detroit Enterprise Academy in remembrance of George Floyd. The event included motivational speakers, activists, light refreshments, and more. Students and families are encouraged to wear a black shirt and mask. DEA students received a shirt that says, “My Life Matters,” while teachers sported shirts reading, “Educators Believe Black Lives Matter.” DEA will be donating funds raised at the event to the Detroit Youth Violence Prevention Initiative, which works to ensure youth have a path out of violence toward a high quality of life through education, jobs, and careers.
“The purpose of the march was to show students that DEA sees color and recognizes that racial injustices are present in the Black community and that DEA doesn’t tolerate racism or injustice of any kind,” shared Gagnon. Additionally, Gagnon shared that DEA aims to show students that they can take action to create change, regardless of their age.
With roughly 200 people in attendance, Gagnon was proud to see their community come together to recognize that Detroit Enterprise does not tolerate racism or injustice of any kind.
“As educators of Black children, we must recognize that our families and co-workers are suffering,” said Gagnon. “Our Black students’ lives matter. In these moments of intense trauma, we must come together as a community to support one another, and as educators, we must do this for our students as well.”
The speakers at the march included Pastor Steven Herrod and former DEA student and activist, ReJoyce Douglas. Performances were given by local rap artist, Tray Little, and recent graduate of DEA and rising star, Taylor Sims.
Chants were led by Tray Little, who is also husband of Jessica Little, second-grade teacher at DEA, and included “Black Lives Matter”, “Our Students Matter”, and “No Justice, No Peace, No Racist Police,” to name a few.
As attendees marched, they were wearing “equality” masks which were donated by The Hantz Foundation, whose goal is to connect students to high-quality education, resources, and career opportunities that are the stepping stones for future success.
The Detroit Police Department’s 5th Precinct even joined participants for the march. “Having law enforcement officials put on masks and join my students in the march was powerful,” shared Gagnon. “We need to see color. We need to listen to the messages that are being shared.”
For Gagnon, it begins with acknowledging that racial injustices are present and then seeking out ways that to promote positive change.
Along with staff, students, and families, in attendance there were DEA Board members, National Heritage Academies staff, The Hantz Foundation, Southeastern High School students and staff, Kesha McKinney from Councilman André Spivey’s office, Michigan State Representative Joe Tate, and Buddy Moorehouse, vice president of communications at Michigan’s Charter School Association.
In addition to the solidarity march, DEA is taking action by launching a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Task Force that is co-chaired by two staff members, Munira Spiller, first-grade teacher, and Jessica Little. The committee aspires to determine how Detroit Enterprise will encourage change and what action steps will be taken by their school.
“I am so passionate and committed to the work of anti-racism,” shared Jessica Little. “It’s important we are doing this work in schools, especially in our school where almost all our students are Black. White teachers, like myself, especially need to be aware of their privilege and challenge their white supremacy and racist stereotypes so that they do not denigrate their own students.”
For Little, her job is to continue to fight for justice in every area of her life, both work and personal. She wants to continue seeing her students grow into their voice, even if it’s a bit awkward at first.
All photos were taken by Scott Underwood, library tech specialist at DEA.